Home inspections serve as a critical safety net for prospective homebuyers. The primary purpose of a home inspection is, after all, to identify any potential “red flags” that already exist in a property, and those that may become a problem somewhere down the road. To that end, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on the process, and perhaps even learn how to inspect a house.
Home Inspection Checklist
Home inspections are the easiest and best way to confirm the condition of a subject property. A good home inspection has the potential to identify just about every issue with a home that is important for a buyer to be aware of. It is worth noting, however, that the home inspection process is complex and exhaustive. That said, home inspections are best left to a certified professional. Nonetheless, here’s a list of the issues that need to be addressed in a typical home inspection:
- Structural: The home’s structural integrity deserves the utmost attention. Your home inspector should pay special considerations to the quality of the foundation on which the home rests and the structure itself. They will look closely for any issues that may compromise the tensile strength of the property. Bowed walls, cracks in the foundation, and sagging doors and windows are all significant red flags. If any structural issues are identified, he or she will likely refer you to a structural specialist to further evaluate the damage and get an estimate for repairs.
- Exterior: A good home inspector will take their time looking at the exterior of the home and inspect it for any inconsistencies that may cause an issue immediately or in the future. The most common things inspectors will want to look for are cracks or blistering on any surface (siding, paint, masonry and stucco work). More importantly, they shouldn’t ignore any vegetation that has already made its way onto the structure, as roots can crack foundations and vines can ruin walls.
- Grounds: Inspectors will evaluate the home and nearby grounds. They’ll keep an eye out for telltale red flags: signs of standing water, evidence of termite damage and rot. It is also important to evaluate the landscaping, and whether or not it will be an issue in the future. The grounds should slope away from the house and there should be no reason for any vegetation to threaten the home. This is also the time fences, decks, pools, patio covers and any other exterior amenities should be checked.
- Roof: As a big-ticket item, it’s important to make sure the roof is in good condition. Are there any signs of rot, damage, mold or decay? Are there any shingles missing? Don’t forget to look at the vents and make sure they are in working order. You’ll also want to make sure the inspector checks the rain gutters to make sure they are functioning properly.
- Attic, Basement & Crawlspace: Each of these areas should be inspected for adequate insulation and ventilation. Every inspector already knows to look for signs of moisture or mold that could turn into a larger problem down the road.
- Interior: Interior inspections need to be exhaustive and unassuming. Your inspector shouldn’t expect everything to be in working order and should, instead, scrutinize everything. Outside of the usual suspects, look at everything from the condition of the walls, stains in the ceiling, irregular electrical outlets or any uneven surfaces. Make sure all of the doors and windows open and close properly, as any inconsistencies could be a sign of larger problems. Pay close attention to the framing. Are all the walls the same height? Are there any gaps between the walls, floors and ceilings? Are any of the walls bowed? Again, mind due diligence and leave no stone unturned.
- Kitchen: The kitchen will require a great deal of scrutiny, as there are more amenities there than in almost any other room. Once you have taken care of the obvious issues, proceed to dig a little deeper. Does the stove’s exhaust vent work properly? Are outlets and switches protected properly? Are there any signs of water damage? Do the cabinets have any visual signs of stains, rot or decay? Check the appliance connections and confirm whether or not they are hooked up correctly. Better yet, do they work? Does the sink have a P-Trap and drain properly? Again, leave no stone unturned. There’s a lot that can go wrong in the kitchen, so be sure to spend extra time scrutinizing it.
- Bathrooms: Bathrooms are usually susceptible to moisture, so a good inspector will make sure there are no signs of water damage, specifically on the ground where water can build up. You will want to make sure the floor is even and flush. Subsequently, there should be a working exhaust fan to mitigate moisture issues in the future. While not always the case, bathrooms without a fan are usually more prone to moisture damage. Additionally, make sure all the amenities work properly (shower, faucet, toilet, etc.). Note how well the drains work and whether or not the water pressure is adequate. It’s also a good idea to make sure the caulk around every seal is in good condition, as to prevent water damage in the future.
- Plumbing: Plumbing issues may be less obvious to the inexperienced investor, but there are telltale signs inspectors know to keep an eye out for. The first thing they’ll do do is look for any signs of leaks, odor, or corrosion. Next, they’ll make sure amenities hooked up to plumbing lines are tight and secure––toilets and sinks shouldn’t move at all. Make sure they check water pressure and whether or not the hot water works. More importantly, make sure you can locate the water shutoff valve, and confirm that it works.
- Electrical: Inspecting a home’s electricals can be dangerous, so either have a professional do it or learn how to inspect them responsibly. That said, there are a number of red flags to keep an eye out for. Most importantly, you’ll want to make sure there are no signs of fraying or electrical damage. Burnt wood near electrical wiring may suggest a fire risk, so make sure all of the wiring is correct and up to code. Exterior electricals need to be fastened correctly and show no signs of compromise. Also, make sure there is no vegetation touching any wires. Loose and exposed wires are obviously something to look for, too. On the interior, you will need to make sure the proper wires are used and hooked up to the correct panels. Check to make sure all circuits are protected by fuses or circuit breakers. Does the home currently have the proper amount of amps, and is it outfitted to deal with them correctly?
- HVAC: Don’t forget to check the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Pay attention to how old the unit is (anything over eight years may need to be replaced). Also, make sure it has access to each room. Are there registers in each room? Are the ducts clean? Inspect the unit itself and look or any red flags. Corrosion, water damage, missing valves, and frayed wires all need to be scrutinized. Be sure to confirm the unit has an adequate air supply, too. Feel free to start it up and make sure it works for yourself.
It is worth noting that each home is different; the respective inspection process for each property will vary. Therefore, the aforementioned list is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather identify the most common items that need to be inspected.
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3 Home Inspection Methods
Home inspections have proven to be an important tool for real estate investors. Not unlike a tool, however, home inspections can be used several different ways. More specifically, there are typically three scenarios investors will find themselves in when it comes to conducting home inspections:
- They may conduct the inspection themselves
- They may hire a professional
- They may reach a compromise with the seller
Do It Yourself (DIY)
Home inspections aren’t always required, which may lead investors to believe they don’t need to hire a professional. Consequently, many investors may trust in themselves to conduct their own home inspection before buying, which is absolutely within their rights, but I would advise against it. While it is possible to conduct your own home inspection, a certified inspector will almost always do a more thorough job. That’s not to say investors shouldn’t know how to inspect a house, but rather that this is a job best left to a professional inspector.
Hire A Professional
Given the opportunity, investors should almost always hire a professional home inspector. Professional inspectors are trained to scrutinize each and every property, down to the smallest detail. More importantly, however, a real inspector knows how to look at a property with an unbiased opinion. Therein lies the real reason hiring a professional should be your first choice: their ability to look at a property and make a judgement void of emotional decisions. Again, that’s not to say an investor can’t do the same, but professional inspectors are better equipped for the job. Hiring a professional is a small price to pay if it means you are protecting your investment.
Compromise With The Seller
Investors should always look to have the home inspected before committing to a purchase. If for nothing else, inspections are one of the greatest risk mitigation strategies made available to buyers. However, there are extenuating circumstances that may call for the inspection to be neglected. For example, there are times when compromising on the inspection may actually help investors land the deal. Some owners would rather sell without having the home inspected, and will actually prioritize buyers willing to forego the inspection process. There are unique situations where skipping the inspection could actually help investors.
Home inspections have proven to be an invaluable tool for today’s real estate investors. Few things, if any, are capable of mitigating more risk at the time of an acquisition than knowing how to inspect a house. That said, home inspections are tricky, and can overwhelm even the most seasoned investors. There are a lot of moving parts and ramifications that stem from an improper inspection. Hiring a home inspector could save you from wasting thousands of dollars fixing issues that would have otherwise been missed. While it’s always a good idea to know how to inspect a house, it may be in your best interest to simply hire a professional.
- Even those that know how to inspect a house should know when to hire a professional to do the job for them.
- A good home inspection could prevent investors from making a mistake that they’ll regret.
- Every investor should know how to inspect a house before buying, even if they don’t plan on conducting the inspection themselves.